Minimalism

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My bike derailleur is on the fritz and I didn’t get around to fixing it on Wednesday so yesterdays trash run was in fact a walk. I conveniently found this walking stick early on in my stroll.

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On Gauthier and Gaspe I came across this picture (on wood) of Patrick Roy from his time with the Montreal Canadiens.

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I found this mishmash of stuff in a bag within one of the bins above. There was a bass tuner (I still have to test it but I’m optimistic that it’ll work), a little clock (working), a flashlight, several catholic medallions (in the ziplock bags), some museum moisture charts, an unused small canvas and a few other things. I took the charts and bass tuner and left the rest by a bixi station for others to find.

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I found these decorations in the alley adjacent to Parc. There were some really cute framed embroideries, a couple of Hellenic plates and two old souvenir plates of Montreal and Quebec City. I’ll probably keep a couple of the little embroidered birds, which are totally up my aesthetic alley.

On the way home I stopped by at Monastiraki for a talk by my friend Robert Wringham (the founder of the “New Escapologist” magazine) about the benefits of minimalism. The talk reminded me of my least favorite parts of this “job”: the accumulation of trash and how it clutters up my life and my brain. I try to save what I can and hold onto what I think might be valuable or good to give away. It kind of comes with the business that I end up with too much stuff.

What sucks about that is the constant inner turmoil about how best to make money from something and the fear that I’ll sell something valuable for a fraction of what it’s worth. This sort of circular thought pattern leads me to doing nothing at all a lot of the time and makes it hard to relax, which isn’t particularly fun or fulfilling and also takes away from my actual enjoyment of some of the beautiful things I find.

I don’t think I’m especially attached to money and possessions but I definitely still feel that sort of greed that drives you to get “your share;” that feeling that wants the most from the least amount of work possible. However, in the end I have enough to get by and enough to buy microbrewed beers instead of PBR and that’s fine by me. Attempting to get the maximum amount of profit for things will just drive me crazy, especially when I have so many little things to be contemplated.

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This is the sectioned off part of my room right now. You don’t even see what’s in the big red suitcase (full of knick knacks and costume jewelry) or the other suitcases for that matter. You also don’t see the “normal” part of my room, which is littered with the nicer, Etsy-able jewelry and other miscellanea.

I’m going to focus on hitting the garbage “reset” button because I’m sick of thinking about how much I could theoretically get for an unopened bottle of 1964 chianti. That’s not to say that I’ll get rid of the stuff I think I can get good money for, but I plan on cutting the cord on a lot of this stuff, leaving it out on the street for others to pick through or selling it for cheap at a yard sale.

I think ditching the excess will help clear my mind and make it easier to stay on top of the trash I may bring home in the future. Right now it’s just sort of overwhelming. I want to live by that William Morris quote: “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

In other news I made a couple of sales in the last few days. I sold the old Silver Cross pram for 80$, some sports caps and stickers for 10, and an old Avon catalogue on Etsy for 4. I also sold a couple of things last night to the owner of Monastiraki for 4$ and bartered a watch for a selection of organic green tea. With this 98$ I’m up to 138$ for the month. Not too shabby considering I haven’t even got around to listing some of my more valuable stuff on Ebay / Etsy. Hopefully my upcoming yard sale (I may even do one today if my room-mate is interested in hanging / helping out) brings in some more profits as well.

I’ll likely be walking again for trash in the eastern Plateau unless someone lends me their bike. I hope to get to the bike co-op tomorrow to fix my ride.

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16 thoughts on “Minimalism

  1. Stephanie says:

    I LOVE those little birdy embroideries !!!! Great find!!! I have a few myself from thrift shops that I proudly display on my “granny mantle” – along with other old timey kitschy things! Love this blog!

  2. You have to be careful of competing philosophies.

    I knew someone who didn’t want her life “cluttered”, so there was an emptiness in her home. But objects were just things to get rid of. I think it was really that her life was cluttered, not with things but her time all used up.

    I keep a spare monitor, keyboard, even computer around. If I didn’t, I might have to rush out and buy a new keyboard, like last week when I spilled something on mine. One can’t count on finding what you need in the garbage when you need it. Same with a monitor, in the winter when it’s harder to find garbage, and no garage sales, I would have to spend good money on a new monitor if the current one failed. Having the spare equipment doesn’t cost me anything but a bit of space (precisely because they were bought used or found in the garbage), but would cost me if I had to replace at full cost.

    Keeping a spare whatever around is like money in the bank, because otherwise you need that money in the bank when something breaks.

    Yes, there is an issue, people spending full price on books they will read once and then discard (whether giving away, selling or whatever). That seems a waste, if it’s worth reading, maybe it’s worth keeping? Or vice versa, maybe it’s not worth reading if it’s not worth keeping. People “need” things and they can’t wait, so they buy without giving it much thought, and then soon it’s garbage (or garage sale fodder). Its’ complicated, because if nobody was buying new, there’d be no source of things to buy used, no interesting garbage to find. But there is a difference between consuming things at full price, and bringing things home that were found int he garbage or at garage sales.

    Or all that clothing bought because fashion demands it, discarded soon after “because I can’t wear that a second time” or whatever. Once in used circles, the value stays the same,
    but people spend good money to buy it new, then discard.

    Change isn’t about following someone else’s plan, it’s about taking something in, making it apart of you. The classic example was a few years ago, when the “100mile diet” hit big. Someone was quoted as saying “we’ve decided to do it, even though we’ve been vegetarians for 10 years”. Well, are they just following trends? If they can be swayed so easily, then what’s their criteria for moving in some direction? I haven’t eaten meat since 1979, it has very little political angle (though there’s that after the actual change). It’s not something to drop because some new fad has come along.

    I’ve seen people confused “frugality” with “minimal”, people so happy to clear out the house and get rid of the clutter, but not thinking about how they spent the money in the first place.

    Michael

  3. Joanna Caldwell says:

    I collect books;I do not like too much minimalism.I organize all my books by category on separate bookshelves.I do not give away my books because they inspire me;I work as a professional translator who speaks five languages.E-readers still do not eliminate the need for paper.My friend moved from a condo in Dorval to a condo in NDG;stupidly he sold his can opener,home tools,bookcases and books in a garage sale for next to nothing.He spent six months in NDG buying those things from garage sales and Craigslist.Many things he had to buy new from Canadian Tire,Indigo and Walmart.That cost him more money than it would have cost to move the stuff.Minimalism is not always good.Your work is fascinating,but do not just tout minimalism.

    • martng says:

      “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” This is the key. The things I have cluttering my life are not useful and while I may find them beautiful I don’t have a space for them in my life. I’m not advocating getting rid of useful items like can openers, or pieces of a valued life collection. I’m talking about the stuff that has no real use. In my case this stuff only serves to cause me anxiety.

  4. You need to find a working bike, methinks. Take the time to do your ebay/Etsy listings this weekend … then relax.

    “The trouble with simple living is that, though it can be joyful, rich, and creative, it isn’t simple.” – Doris Janzen Longacre

    “Smile, breathe and go slowly.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

  5. Greita Morse says:

    It’s so hard to get rid of because you are obviously attracted to the things that you find.And you leave the rest.I look for things that anyone might be attracted to and sell them but I categorise everything and never keep anything that I can’t or wouldn’t use.
    Everything that I don’t sell,I give away or bring to the Sally Ann,but it’s hard.

    • martng says:

      Yeah it’s hard. I have a room full of stuff I do love and would be sad to see go (and won’t be getting rid of barring a long-distance move). The stuff I plan on clearing out doesn’t fit into those categories. It’s just stuff I want to sell but am afraid to because I think I might be giving it away for far too cheap, which ends up in me being indecisive/inactive and going through the same thought patterns over and over again. My brain isn’t organized enough to methodically go through every item and list it on Etsy, Ebay etc. so I prefer to just sell it cheap and move on.

  6. Jonah says:

    I collect bottles and cans from my neighborhood park every now and then;I never have to haggle about price.I work in a retail store so recycling bottles and cans occasionally adds to my income.Just earlier this week I made $15 by recycling cans and bottles on one day.You should recycle some of them too.

    • martng says:

      I have done this a bit in the past but not anymore. There’s a good group of people that go out looking for cans and I don’t plan on competing for that income, it’s all yours! When I see bottles/cans in bags though I tend to leave them out for others to find.

      It’s a good source of income but I am more attracted to the other types of things I find.

  7. Patricia says:

    I love your blog,and I love most of the comments from Michael Black who seems so thoughtful and original.He does not just repeat popular phrases but actually thinks.Miss Divinity is also very insightful,but maybe not as original. Also.I enjoy your photos and your art finds.Happy summer.

  8. Mimi Oregon says:

    I think there are too many garage sales around—in some garage sales they have not even anything interesting for sale.And I do not believe in minimalism,but I do believe in making full use of things one buys new.You should emphasize that.One day you should have your own apartment so you can arrange your treasures in style.God bless.And Good luck

  9. Heather says:

    I love good “JUNK”! I find it hard to draw the line too…but like you every once in awhile I have to let go. Yard sale it or on line ad all my great stuff!!

  10. I am always on the look out, i know the trash routine better then the trash truck drivers,

  11. Glen says:

    You should spend the sunny weekends just biking or relaxing in the park,picnicking,playing cards,etc to recharge your batteries.Many parks have festivals,barbecues,music,etc on summer weekends.Visit these parks in different neighborhoods:Parc Maisonneuve behind the Olympic Stadium,Parc Ahuntsic next to Henri Bourassa metro,Coffee Park in NDG,Park Westmount in Westmount,Parc Angrignon in Ville Emard,Parc de la Visitation in Ahuntsic,Parc Vinet in the Sudouest,Park Felix Leclerc in LaSalle,Parc des Hirondelles in Ahuntsic,etc.Report a bit on them and any interesting finds you may find in dumpsters and trash bins with lids on the way to and from.

  12. Roger Keuvar says:

    I have a couple of friends in the Plateau who work in graphics design,furniture design and invest in stock.They live very zen in big Plateau apartments and travel a lot,eat out a lot.They buy a lot of knicknacks,clothes,books,etc—every six months they sell or throw out many knicknacks and books on the street because they like minimalism.I get together with them to discuss philosophy,to share meals and to go to movies with.They are wonderful cooks and helpful with technical/artistic matters.I criticize them for throwing out so much—-now they start giving me the things they want to throw out or they try to donate to a charity.But why do they buy so much if they do not want to keep anything except the basics?I disagree with the Plateau people who love zen and keep throwing out good stuff.It is these ‘zen’ people who junk so much.But they do not stop buying.I am not a fan of zen.

  13. Diane T. says:

    You should get your bike and bike trailer fixed for good.Otherwise,how will you cover far-off neighborhoods?The weather is pretty mild so you have ample opportunity to explore different neighborhoods.Yes,it is a bit rainy today but still not too hot or too cold.It might be a bit rainy in the coming week,but it will still be relatively pleasant to move around.Take advantage.

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